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New tyres to bring out best in drivers 29 Nov 2006

Bridgestone tyres on the car of Nelson Piquet Jr. (BRA) Renault R26. Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 28 November 2006. World © Hartley/Sutton

Formula One drivers face a new challenge in testing this week - adapting to Bridgestone’s 2007 specification tyres. The Japanese company will serve as the sport’s sole supplier next season and changes to the regulations mean their products will be quite unlike those seen during 2006.

"We had a very interesting first day at Barcelona running the Bridgestone tyres,” reported Renault driver Heikki Kovalainen as testing resumed this week. “The tyres are very different to those I have used so far in Formula One: there is less grip overall, and we need to be a bit more careful in how we drive as well as adapting our style.”

The decreased grip stems from the fact that the new tyres are generally of a harder compound than their predecessors. And with every team using the same tyres, the compounds will provide a wider operating window to allow everyone a chance to extract the maximum performance from them.

The effect is expected to be an increase in lap times of around two to three seconds, with more emphasis on driver skill in terms of controlling the car on the limit. Cornering speeds will indeed be lower, but that doesn’t mean things will be any easier for those at the wheel.

Renault are just one of six teams making the switch from Michelin to Bridgestone tyres over the winter, but despite the apparent severity of the change, Kovalainen expects the transition to be a smooth one. “I am already confident I can adapt to them quickly, and that the team will have no problems understanding how to get the best from them," he added.

The good news for the former Michelin teams is that the change in tyre specification means those who ran Bridgestone rubber in 2006 are unlikely to have much of an advantage. Mark Webber used Bridgestones at Williams this season and brought that experience to his first day of Red Bull testing on Tuesday. However, according to the team’s chief test engineer, Ian Morgan, it was not hugely important.

"The tyres are Bridgestones, but they are a different spec to the ones used this season,” he said. “In fact, today and the next few tests are all about developing an understanding of these new tyres and adapting the car to suit their characteristics."